Stocks Fall After Moderna CEO Says New Vaccine Needed Against ‘Omicron’

Comments from Moderna’s (NASDAQ:MRNA) chief executive that an entirely new vaccine might be needed against the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has sparked a downturn in global financial markets.

In an interview with The Financial Times newspaper, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel predicted a "material drop" in existing vaccines’ efficacy and damped expectations new ones could be ready soon.

His comments appeared to spook markets, with stocks in Asia retreating along with U.S. and European index futures and crude oil. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down more than 400 points, or 1.32%, in pre-market trading.

Moderna does have an advantage in that it can quickly develop a new vaccine based on existing ones.

However, the new variant could offer Moderna a chance to catch up to the Pfizer-BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX) effort, whose shot has turned into the best-selling pharmaceutical product of all time.

Moderna recently warned that it wouldn’t hit its delivery targets, saying vaccine sales would be between $15 billion U.S. and $18 billion U.S. this year.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company said last week that it has already been studying boosters that were designed to anticipate mutations such as those that have emerged in Omicron and will rapidly advance a candidate targeting this new strain specifically.

Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) has said it will have a vaccine targeting Omicron within 100 days. Other vaccine makers, including AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) have said they are working on treatments for the new variant as well.